Monday, April 27, 2009

A weekend in Strasbourg

I’m back from a three days weekend in Strasbourg, where I had a wonderful time. The weather was great. This was my first time in Strasbourg and I really enjoyed it. And as I always like to give a philatelic twist to such visit, before living I checked if there were some stamps related to Strasbourg among the stamps issued by the French postal administration. I found quite a lot therefore I selected few of them to illustrate this post.

(Pictures of stamps are coming from the
Phila Echange website).

First of all, in case you don’t know it, Strasbourg is a city located in the north east of France, near the border with Germany. Strasbourg is the capital of Alsace and is the ninth largest of France (counted in inhabitants). Historically disputed between France and Germany, this area is strongly marked by a mixture of French and German culture.

Strasbourg is a very nice city located on the Ill river; its historic center was classified a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1998. This was the first time that such an honor was given to an entire city center. One of the landmarks of the city is the cathedral, Notre Dame de Strasbourg, a Roman Catholic cathedral whose construction started in 1176, to be completed only in 1439 with the north tower that was the world’s tallest building from 1647 until 1874. The south tower that was originally planned was never built, giving to the church a very characteristic asymmetrical form. Here is a picture of the cathedral that I took from the border of the river.

The cathedral is pictured on various French stamps, but the one giving the best view is this stamp issued on the 23rd of June 1939 to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the completion of the tower.

In the rightt top corner of the stamp we can see the coat of arms of Strasbourg that is also the subject of a stamp issued on the 5th of March 1945.

The cathedral has been built using sandstone, which gives its pink color. The façade of the cathedral is fully covered with sculptures, as you can see on the close up I made here.

One of these sculptures is the subject of a stamp issued on the 25th of January 1971 in the artistic series.

A detail of the stained-glass windows of the church is also the subject of a stamp from the artistic series, issued on the 15th of April 1985.

Another landmark of this area is the half-timbered houses that are very characteristic of the Alsace region. Here is an example of such houses in a part of the historic center of Strasbourg which is called La Petite France (the small France).

Such houses, that are called Alsatian houses, are the subject of a stamp issued on the 10th of September 2003 within the series: La France à Voir (France to see).

Another reason that makes Strasbourg famous in the rest of Europe and of the world is that it is the seat of several European institutions, such as the Council of Europe (stamp issued on the 3rd of June 1952)…

The European court of Human rights…

Or the European parliament (stamp issued on the 7th of December 1998).

Alsace is a French region which is also famous for its wines and its gastronomy. You may have already tried one of the typical meals from this area, the Choucroute, made with sauerkraut and various types of meats. Here is a picture of this meal illustrated on a stamp issued on the 21st of March 2005 is the series La France à vivre (France to live).

And to conclude, let me also mention the storks that you can still see in this area, located on top of the chimneys of some houses, as shown on this stamp from 1973.

Strasbourg is really a nice city, and Alsace is a really pleasant region. Don’t hesitate to visit it if you have the opportunity!

You can see
here, more of my pictured taken during the weekend.

Friday, April 24, 2009

My first cover from Tanzania

I’m thrilled to share with you today my first cover from Tanzania! I got it from one of the cover exchange circuits I belong to.

It is postmarked (heavily!) from Dar Es Salam and is franked with three different stamps.
Going from right to left, the first stamp we see is part of a set of four stamps issued on the 16th of September 1991 to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the United Nations Development Program (
UNDP). On the stamp is inscribed the principal of this program: helping people to help themselves! The three other stamps of the set depict various actions that are part of the program. Sorry, I was not able to find a picture of the full set.
The next stamp which is rotated 90° on the right is part of a set of seven stamps and one souvenir sheet. Even if the stamp is inscribed 1991, it has been issued in 1992, actually on the 8th of March 1992. The set is fully dedicated to fishes of Tanzania, and the stamp on the cover pictures a Aphysoemion bivittatum (I could not find the common name for this fish).
I had quite hard time to identify the last stamp. In fact it is a rather recent issue, too recent to be in my 2007 Scott catalogue. I searched on the Net for information about the stamp and I finally found it on the place where I should have looked at first: Tanzanian post office website! The stamp is part of set of 10 stamps issued on the 15th of August 2008 and picturing fauna of Tanzania marine parks. This stamp pictures an Anemone fish, often called also Clown fish.

Fishes seem to be a very common subject for stamps produced by the Tanzanian postal administration. A gold mine for fish stamps collector ;-)
Myself, I’m glad to add one country in the list of places from where I received mails!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Nice cover from Canada

Here is a very nice cover that I received recently from Canada, sent by Glenn Thank you very much Glenn for this cover.

I’m always happy to get covers that are franked with a complete souvenir sheet. This shows that souvenir sheets can be a real postal item and not only an item for collection. This cover is franked with the souvenir sheet issued by Canada on the 9th of April 2009 for the “Preserve the polar regions and glaciers” series. I must say that I like this souvenir sheet!
It is divided in two parts: the top is dedicated to the Arctic and the bottom to the Antarctic. Each part pictures local fauna.

In the right top corner is pictured an Arctic fox (Alopex lagopus) and on the stamp located on the left top corner we can see a polar bear (Ursus maritimus).
On the right bottom corner, the sheet pictures penguins, whereas the stamp located on the right pictures an Arctic Tern (Sterna paradisaea), a bird that makes the link between the Arctic and the Antarctic, since it migrates yearly between the North and the South Poles.
And like on all the souvenir sheets issued in this series, we can find the famous crystal in the top right corner.

The Calgary postmark on the cover is dated from the 9th of April, the first day of issue of this souvenir sheet!

With the two stamps of the souvenir sheet, the postal rate for a letter to France was not reached therefore Glenn had to add some stamps. The two other stamps have been issued on the 2nd of April 2009 in the scope of the International Year of Astronomy.
Both stamp picture an important Canadian observatory and a nebula.
The left stamp pictures the National Research Council’s Dominion Astrophysical Observatory (DAO) located in Saanich. In the background is pictured the Horsehead nebula, a cloud of cold gas and dust belonging to the constellation of Orion. The very specific shape that gave its name to the nebula has been observed for the first time in 1888.
The right stamp pictures the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFHT) located on the summit of Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano dominating the Pacific Ocean. In the background we can see the Eagle nebula, part of the constellation of the Serpens, and discovered in 1745.
Both stamps have also been issued in a souvenir sheet. Here is a picture taken from the Canadian post website.

I haven’t received so many nice covers from Canada so far, so I was very happy to add this one to my collection.

Monday, April 20, 2009

A letter to Spain wrongly sent to Malaysia…

Last week I had the surprise to find this letter in my mail box.

This is a cover I sent beginning of this year to send my season greetings to Angel in Spain (to be checked). And it comes back, a bit more than three months after, with a postmark “Missent to Malaysia” and another one indicating that the cover was returned because the addressee is unknown!
I wonder why the letter ever traveled to Malaysia. My only guess is that, as I sent a bunch of letters (including letters to Malaysia) at the same time, it is possible that after having being manually cancelled, this letter got stuck in some way with another of my letters that was addressed to Malaysia. Once it arrived in Malaysia the problem was discovered and the letter was sent back.
What I do not know is if the letter was then sent to Spain, and then back to me because of unknown addressee, or if the letter was sent back to me directly from Malaysia. As I do not see any reason why this letter could not reach its destination in Spain, I guess that the second choice is the good one and that the rectangular postmark located on the top of the cover was applied by Malaysian post and not by the Spanish one. There is unfortunately no other cancel on the cover (even on the recto side) that could tell me the exact way that the cover has followed. Does anyone have any idea?
Let me add one word about the stamp on the cover. This is a personalized stamp (called Mon Timbre à Moi in France) that I realized with a nice picture of a baby chicken for Cees. I used them to send my best wishes to my friends all over the word at the beginning of the year.
The stamp has been cancelled at the post office located near Le Louvre, the famous museum of Paris. The particularity of this post office is that it is opened 23 hours a day (it actually closes during one hour for cleaning) and 7 days a week! Another particularity is that it has a mail box dedicated to philatelic mails. When you put a letter into this box, you are more or less sure to get a clean cancel on your cover. This is why I use it a lot.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Another nice cover from USA

I have already told you about Gael, my former colleague and friend who is now living in the USA. She recently sent me a nice gift (Thank you Gael for the handmade coaster! It is really great) using a nice cover that I would like to share with you.

The cover is franked with a full set of five stamps issued by USPS on the 16th of July 2008 celebrating vintage black cinema. The stamps depict posters of movies from the 1920s through 1950s. From left to right, here are the movies that are pictured:

- Hallelujha, a movie produced and directed by King Vidor and released in 1929. This is one of the first films from a major studio to feature an all-black cast.
- Caldonia, a short film (running only 18 minutes) released in 1945, with Luis Jordan (1908-1975) playing himself
- Princess Tam-Tam, a movie released in France in 1935, which is one of the only four movies featuring Josephine Baker (1906-1975) the American-born entertainer who became a French citizen in 1937
- The sport of Gods, a silent film from 1921 based on a novel from Paul Laurence Dunbar
- Black and Tan, a short film (19 minutes) released in 1929 and featuring Duke Ellington and his Cotton Club Orchestra

One thing that is very surprising is that for “Princess Tam-Tam” USPS has selected the poster used in Denmark, and therefore in Danish. Why didn’t they use the American or French ones that you can see below.

To come back on the cover, one other to notice is the color red of the postmark. This is not the first time that I get a cover from the USA with red cancel. I wonder if this has any specific meaning…

Thursday, April 16, 2009

FDC from Lithuania with frog cancel

Here is another purchase I made recently on Ebay for my frog stamps collection: a FDC from Lithuania.

The stamp on the cover has been issued on the 13th of December 1993 and belongs to a set of two. Both stamps are dedicated to animals that are listed in the Lithuanian Red Book (the list of protected species).
I already have this stamp in my collection, and it is actually
already pictured on my website, but this is the first time that I come across the FDC. When I saw the nice frog cancel I immediately decided to try to get it. The cancel pictures a toad with its vocal sack inflated, which is not so common on stamps or cancels.
The stamp pictures two Natterjack toads (formerly Bufo calamita and now Epidalea calamita). This toad is native to Northern Europe. One of its particularities is the yellow line down the middle of its back that helps making the distinction with common toad. This yellow line can easily be seen on the stamp.
As you can see, the left part of the FDC gives information about areas where this toad can be found (obviously everywhere in the country!). The verso of the cover also provides some information.

What is surprising is the usage of “British toad” as the common name for Bufo calamita. Normally the common name is Natterjack toad. This is the first time that I see the usage of British toad. Is it a mistake?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The streets of Paris (II)

The pictures of the stamps used in this article are coming from the excellent website phila echange.

Place Denfert-Rochereau

Let’s continue our philatelic visit of the streets of Paris. For this second episode of the series I have chosen, not a street, but a place, which is located at one of the extremities of Boulevard Arago that I presented last time. This place, located in the 14th arrondissement, is probably more famous among tourists who visit Paris than the boulevard because it is an important crossing point in public transport. It is called Place Denfert-Rochereau, in tribute to Colonel Pierre Philippe Denfert-Rochereau.

Who is Pierre Philippe Denfert-Rochereau?

Pierre Marie Philippe Aristide Denfert-Rochereau was born in 1823. After graduating from the Ecole Polytechnique he started a military career. In 1870 he was nominated governor in Belfort, a city located in the east of France. During the Franco-Prussian war of 1870, he led a heroic resistance in Belfort during 103 days against the enemy. He finally surrendered on the 18th of February 1871 following the order from the French government.
Recognized as a national hero, he was later elected as a deputy and died in 1878.

The place

One of the plates indicating the name of the place

Place Denfert-Rochereau is a wide place and is the intersection of several large boulevards including Boulevard Arago that I described in the first article of the series. The place received the name Denfert-Rochereau in 1879, one year after the death of the Colonel. It was previously called Place d’enfer (Hell’s place) and was the location of the “Barrière d’enfer” (Hell’s gate), a gate where, a long time ago, you had to pay taxes when bringing goods into the city.
(In the past, the area located on the south side of the place was not actually Paris, but Montrouge (the city were I live!). Paris has expended, and Montrouge has shrunk, but this area is sometimes still referred as the little Montouge.

It is interesting to note the phonetic similarity between the old and new names of the place (“d’enfer” and Denfert-Rochereau); I guess this is not by pure accident that this place was chosen to pay tribute to the Colonel, the hero of the 1870 war.

One of the first things that you notice when you go to the Place Denfert-Rochereau is the statue of a lion, located just in the center. This statue is a replica of a larger sculpture called “The lion of Belfort” located in Belfort. This status was realized by Frédéric Bartholdi (yes the same one than the Bartholdi who realized the statue of liberty that is in New York!) as a tribute to victims of the 1870 war and a tribute to the resistance organized by the Colonel Denfert-Rochereau.
It is said that Barthodli took inspiration from the Egyptian Sphinx to realize his statue. One funny thing to be noticed is that there is no tongue in the opened mouth of the lion.

The lion of Belfort, in Belfort

The replica is in copper and is one third of the size of the original statue. It was also realized by Bartholdi and installed in Paris in 1880.

The lion of Belfort, in Paris

On the pedestal of the statue you can see a medallion that pictures a portrait of Philippe Denfert-Rochereau. The Parisian version of the Lion of Belfort has been renovated in 2001. I remember very well when they removed the statue from the pedestal to have it cleaned and repaired, and when they put it back. It was rather impressive.
Another replica of the same lion exists in Dorchester square, Montréal, Canada!

Also located in the center of the place, there are two buildings that are the remaining parts of the former Hell’s gate. One of the buildings is famous among tourists, since this is the official entry of the Catacombs of Paris.
The Catacombs of Paris are the famous underground ossuary in Paris, located in the former quarries of Paris. Even though the cemetery actually covers only a small section of the underground tunnels, we often refer to the entire networks as the catacombs. The ossuary was created in 1786 when it was decided to move bones from the largest Parisian cemetery (Les Innocents cemetery) that was saturated to a point where its neighbors were suffering from disease due to contamination caused by improper burials. In the 19th century the catacombs were open to the public on a regular basis. This is still a famous touristic attraction if I rely on the huge queues I can see in front of the entrance during the touristic period. I remember having visited them once, when I was a small kid, and I was really impressed by the number of skulls and bones that you could see there! A very strange place, very impressive.

The entrance of the catacombs

Denfert-Rochereau is also the name of the tube station which is located under the place. This is a crossing point between two important tube lines (line 4 and line 6). This is also a railway station for the local express train (called RER). If you ever came from Roissy Cahrles De Gaulle airport with the train (B line of the RER) you have stopped at Denfert-Rochereau! This is the oldest railway station of Paris still in use; it was inaugurated on the 23rd of June 1846

Starting from the place and going further towards Port Royal, there is also an avenue that bears the name of Denfert-Rochereau.

The stamp(s)

The stamp that I showed at the beginning of this post was issued on the 16th of November 1970 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the siege of Belfort. It pictures a portrait of Colonel Denfert-Rochereau and the Lion of Belfort.

The Lion of Belfort first appeared on a stamp issued on the 1st of August 1917, a stamp bearing surtax for the war orphans. Other versions of the same stamp have been issued later (1922 and 1927) with and without surcharge

The lion is also pictured on a stamp dedicated to Frédéric Bartholdi, issued on the 15th of June 1959 in the series about famous people. The stamp pictures also the other well known creation of Bartholdi, the statue of liberty.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Ceramic frog from South Korea

As my internet connection is still out of service at home, I have spent my four days Easter weekend sorting out my stamps and scanning my most recent frog stamps in order to prepare an update of my website. Among them, there was a set of stamps that I recently purchased on Ebay. This is not the first time that I discover, by accident, while browsing stamps items on auctions site, a stamp picturing a frog that I did not know, even after several years of research on the exhaustive list of stamps picturing frogs in one way or another.

Here is the set, which takes the form of a block of se-tenant stamps.

It was issued by South Korea on the 20th of November 1998. It is a part of the Beauty series. This series, initiated in 1991 seems to be dedicated to various types of art work: tapestries (1991), fans (1994), clothes (1997), ceramics (1998, the set I’m showing you today), paintings (?) (1999) and jewels (2000). I’m not completely sure my list is complete and exact.
Anyway the 1998 set pictures various type of ceramics. While I’m not sure I can identify what is pictured on the first stamp (starting from left to right and top to bottom), the other ones picture : a box with cranes on lid, a fish, a red white blossom with blue leaf, a frog (!), a dragon, a monkey and a Pagoda.

As I said, I got those stamps on Ebay, and the seller had the nice idea to use some stamps from the same set on the cover. Unfortunately she did not use the frog stamp, but anyway the cover is worth being shared with you, knowing that I haven’t’ shown so many covers from South Korea up to now on my blog.

In addition to the stamps presented above, the cover also contains a definitive stamp from 1973 picturing cranes. The same stamp also exists in blue and dark blue.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Letter from Iceland

I have today a day off and since my internet connection at home still does not work, I decided to go to a webcafe to update my blog!

To stay in the trend of this week I have decided to share with you a very nice and simple cover that I received recently from a reader of my blog, Benedikt. This cover comes from Iceland. Thank you very much Benedikt for it.

The cover is franked with two stamps that I have already shown here on my blog, quite a long time ago. They have been issued on teh 1rst of October 2007. This set is in fact the Iceland contribution for the SEPAC issue.
The stamps are very nice. They picture Jökulsá canyon, which is the largest canyon of Iceland. Look at these wondefull waterfalls. It really makes me feel like visiting Iceland! This is what a stamp should do: make you feel like visiting the issuing country. Don't you think so?

And I don't need to underline the nice postmark. Very neat and clean. Really a nice cover!

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Singapore today

Let’s continue the trend started this week by sharing with you another cover that I received from a fellow blogger. This very, very nice cover comes from Singapore and has been sent by Edmund. Thank you very much Edmund, I owe you at least two nice covers from France. I will take care of this as soon as I have a bit more free time…

The cover is franked by a full set of ten stamps issued on the 9th of August 2008 to celebrate the national day. This set, entitled Singapore today, contains ten stamps picturing photographs of Singapore taken by one of the photographers that have been awarded the cultural medallion.
The cultural medallion was created in 1979 as an initiative of the president of Singapore to reward individuals who have attained artistic excellence in their respective fields. As far as photography is concerned, the first Cultural medallion was awarded in 1982 to David Tray who is celebrated in this set by two stamps. The other photographers that have been selected for this set are: Tan Lip Seng, Chua Soo Bin, Foo Tee Jun and Teo Bee Yan.
In addition to these ten stamps, a miniature sheet completes the set. Here is the picture of the miniature sheet that I took from the website of the postal administration of Singapore.

I rather like this set. It is very colorful and it is a nice way to share with the rest of the world nice sceneries of Singapore. I must admit that I’m very found of Photography. When I was younger I was an active photographer, taking pictures and processing them myself. Nowadays I too busy with my work (and my stamps ;-) ) to continue but I have keep a very high interest for the work of photographers. And I really like the pictures that have been selected for this set. It really makes people feel like visiting Singapore!

Just to complete the picture, the last stamp is a part of the definitive set that I already mentioned in my post about the
previous cover sent by Edmund.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Pioneers of the industrial revolution and other stuff

I would like to share with you today a gift that I received from Scott, the webmaster of Positively Postal. (Thanks a lot Scott!)
This is a presentation pack of one of the recent issue from Royal Mail and celebrating eight pioneers of the industrial revolution. The set was issued on the 10th of March.

Each stamp pictures the portrait of one innovator and, in the background, one of his most noticeable achievements. The eight personalities that have been selected are: Matthew Boulton, James Watt, Richard Arkwright, Josiah Wedgwood, George Stephenson, Henry Maudslay, James Brindley and John McAdam.
I will not detail too much this issue because I let you read the excellent article that Scott has published on his site. Just click
here to go there.
Scott has also organized a competition around this issue. Just check
here how to participate. And take benefit of your visit on his site to read about the other new issues from Great Britain.

I think that this set of stamps is rather nice. Nice design, nice presentation pack, with very interesting information written inside. The number of stamps is may be a bit high, eight stamps! But it seems to be a bad habit that Royal Mail has taken these last years.

Scott has also sent me a postal card picturing a souvenir sheet issued by Royal Mail on the 26th of February and dedicated to Wales.

For almost all stamp issues Royal Mail issues also a set of postcards picturing the stamps. This is a rather interesting idea. I guess such postal card represents a subject for collection in itself.
The souvenir sheet celebrating Wales pictures, in the background, the
Harlech castle, located in Snowdonia.
The souvenir sheet contains two large stamps, one picturing St David, the patron saint of Wales. The other one pictures the National assembly of Wales located in Cardiff Bay, a place that I had the chance to visit last year and that I really appreciated!
The two small stamps are picturing the famous dragon, one of the symbols of Wales. The stamp in the right bottom corner is part of the definitive series.

This souvenir sheet is the fourth and last part of a series of souvenir sheets entitled “Celebrating”. The three first issues have celebrated England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Here are pictures of those souvenir sheets.

I really like this series. I think the souvenir sheets are really well designed and I appreciate the mixture of long stamps and small ones, the mixture of special stamps and definitive ones. I don’t know how this issue was perceived by people in UK, but I really like it, much more than our huge series “La France à voir / La France à vivre” that contains 100 stamps celebrating our French regions!

Monday, April 06, 2009

Preserving Polar Regions, the French souvenir sheet

(I currently have problems with my Internet connection at home. I’m on the way to change my ISP therefore I will have some difficulties to update my blog in the coming days. I apologize for this. My email address has changed also, please check in my profile my new address, the old one will not be valid anymore very soon. Thanks).

Here is a very short post for today, to share with you a very nice FDC that I received from my fellow blogger Eric. Thank you very much Eric for this wonderful cover.

Some months ago I have written about a sort of omnibus issue, involving more than 40 countries, on the subject of Polar Region preservation (you can read the article here).
The FDC sent by Eric is franked with the souvenir sheet issued by the French post on this subject, but the French issue can not really be considered as a part of the omnibus issue, since the souvenir sheet does not picture the mandatory crystal!
The first day ceremony of this souvenir sheet was held during the last weekend of March, at the same time than a stamp fair held in Macon, from where the FDC has been posted.

The souvenir sheet is dedicated to the Emperor penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri), a penguin which is endemic to Antarctica. This penguin has been made famous recently through the French documentary “La Marche de l’Empereur” (The March of the Penguins) which was issued in 2005.

I really like the very nice postmark picturing a polar bears family. Very cute. This is really a nice FDC for my collection!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

The frog in the moon: a new occurrence

Some times ago I have wrote some posts about the Chinese legend of the goddess Chang’e. You can these articles here and here. I recently discovered, by accident, that this legend pictured on another stamp, and as this stamp pictures also the frog in the moon that is mentioned in the legend, it fits into my collection of frog stamps.
Here is the stamp.

We clearly see on the stamp, in the moon, the silhouette of the frog (or the toad) mentioned by the legend.

This stamp is a part of a set of six stamps issued on the 16th of March 1999 and picturing stone carving from the Han Dynasty. The Han Dynasty started in 202 BC and ended in 220 AD. It was preceded by the Qin Dynasty and followed by the three kingdoms.
The other stamps of the set pictures various scenes as you can see below.

Plowing fields with oxen

Group weaving

Figures dancing in front of fire

Horses and carriage

Jing Ke Attempted to Assassinate Emperor Qinshihuang